Enzymes are proteins that carry out catalytic reactions within the body, and help in breaking down complex molecules like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into simple molecules. There are three types of enzymes in the body namely, food enzymes, metabolic enzymes, and digestive enzymes. Food enzymes are derived from the food that we eat. Metabolic enzymes are those that help in carrying out chemical reactions within the body, and digestive enzymes are those that aid in the process of digestion.
Functions of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are complex proteins that act on the ingested food. They need specific pH and temperature to become chemically active. Enzymes could be derived from plants, as well as animals. These are secreted by the salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, and the small intestine. There are three classes that are derived from the pancreas;
- Proteolytic Enzyme: These help in digestion of proteins.
- Lipases: These enzymes digest fat.
- Amylases: These enzymes work on the digestion of carbohydrates.
- Acid Proteases
Why are Digestive Enzymes Prescribed?
Various health problems could occur if the body is unable to synthesize digestive enzymes. Doctors prescribe them to people who are suffering from malabsorption of nutrients, due to pancreatic insufficiency or cystic fibrosis. They are prescribed to improve absorption of food, reduce gas, bloating and fullness after high fat meals. These enzymes are also prescribed to people affected by chronic indigestion, celiac disease or Crohn's disease.
It is believed that the use of digestive enzyme supplements may prove beneficial in extending the survival rate in patients affected by pancreatic cancer. However, there is hardly any evidence to support this claim.
Adverse Effects of Digestive Enzymes
There are certain side effects that may be experienced by the user. The side effects that are commonly seen are as follows:
- Stomach ache
- Loss of appetite
Pancreatic digestive enzymes are also prescribed for children diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. These pancreatic digestive enzymes have been found to damage the large intestine and increase the risk of fibrosing colonopathy. This has been reported in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology Nutrition. Enteric-coated enzymes in low doses also cause side effects leading to colonopathy. Certain adverse drug interactions have also been reported. If you are using warfarin, an anticoagulant to treat venous thrombosis and atrial fibrillation, consult your doctor before using them. The digestive enzymes interact negatively with the anticoagulant. Thus, it is very important to consult your doctor, if you are already on some drug or medication, to avoid such side effects.
Most of the time, the side effects are very mild, but do inform your doctor if you experience any adverse effects. Take these enzymes under medical guidance as only a medical expert is in the best position to know what's best for you.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.